Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Week 15 Aug. 25

Hello all,
The last few mornings have been almost chilly! At least that’s how my sun baked body feels as the temperatures plummeted to the high 60’s.
The mix of cooler weather and regular moisture has been great for our transplants. The chard, Chinese cabbage, and broccoli we set out last week are all slowly taking root. The first week or so of a transplant’s life takes place very quietly. When they are first set out the shift in moisture usually causes almost all the leaves to collapse. The leaves perk up after a generous watering, but then nothing. By all outward appearances the plants seem to do very little for a few days to a week. But during this time they are sending their roost out beyond the bounds of their former world-the soil block-and into the great wide world of soil. As the plant’s roots recover and grow they begin sending nutrients back up to the plant. Then, usually without our noticing, the plants begin to grow and before we know it we are looking at a big row of broccoli.
But let’s back up a step. I said the roots send up nutrients to the plant. But they can only send nutrients if they are present in the soil. As we discovered this year, the soil at Silver Creek (the big veggie field up the creek from us) has some serious nutrient deficiencies. It seems (I say seems because with soil you never really know) that our most serious deficiency is potassium. From what we have read potassium deficiency leads to small stems, poor internal water regulation, and a general lack of vigor-all things we observed. To add potassium in the short term we found an organic, water soluble, liquid concentrate that we can apply as a foliar spray. Our long term solution is that we will apply granite dust this fall. The granite dust will slowly break down in the soil releasing potassium (and other minerals) as it does.
The other step we have taken to improve our plants’ health is to apply a high calcium lime. This simultaneously addresses our acidic (low pH) soil and low calcium problem. We hope that these steps and others will help us to continue to improve the quality, flavor, and health of our vegetables.
On a sad note we have conceded defeat to the squash bugs. For a time we hand-picked eggs, larvae, and adults; we tried a few sprays to knock back the population, and we performed wild anti-squash bug dances. But in the end their sheer numbers overtook our already heat stressed plants. At this point even if we did manage to somehow kill all the squash bugs off there is little hope of actually getting any squash.
Week 15 box
New this week
Eggplant! Colorful, tender, sweet (never bitter) Asian types. No salt water soaks are required- just slice or dice and use them in sautés, stir-fry, and for grilling. More to harvest in the coming weeks. It’s my absolute favorite. Try it marinated with herbs and olive oil and grilled. It absorbs flavors very easily. My Hmong neighbor at the Morganton Farmer’s Market likes it stir-fried with sweet onions, peppers, lemon grass, and basil over rice. See more recipes below.
Edamame soy beans! Crazy twigs with delicious little soybean pods. We will have them for 2 weeks.
Continuing favorites
Cherry Tomatoes
Peppers- Red and Green bell peppers and long Corno di Toro sweet frying peppers
Cilantro- large fan leaves and fine feathery leaves

Edamame Cooking tips Many of you have had the delicious edamame appetizers at sushi restaurants where you pop the tender, sweet, succulent soybeans out of their shells. Well, now you can have the freshest edamame pods ever at home! They are simple to make and very high in protein, folic acid, omega fatty acids, and other micronutrients.
Pull the pods from the stems of the plant. Use a steamer basket or have a colander ready. Boil about 2 quarts of water to rolling boil. Boil covered for 4 minutes. The pods will be bright green. Drain and rinse briefly. Place in shallow serving bowl with several glugs of soy sauce. (We use about 3 tblspoons of low sodium soy sauce)
Serve warm or cold as an appetizer or as a side dish with dinner. The little pods will pop right open as you eat them. If there are leftovers, take some to work the next day for lunch.

Eggplant recipe:
Pasta and Veggies in Tomato Cream-
12 oz. penne pasta
1 medium eggplant or several small ones, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 large onion, cut into thin wedges
2 cups sliced Portobello mushrooms or (1/2 lb Shiitake mushrooms from Muddy Creek Farm
2 red bell peppers, coarsely chopped- 1 inch
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbl snipped fresh oregano or ½ tsp. dried oregano
¼ cup olive oil
1 28 oz. jar of pasta sauce
Dash ground red pepper
1/3 cup whipping cream
Chopped fresh basil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cook pasta, drain, set aside.
2. Meanwhile, in a shallow roasting pan combine eggplant, onion, mushrooms, garlic, half of the amount of fresh or dried oregano, and the olive oil. Toss to coat veggies. Roast uncovered for 15 to 25 minutes or until veggies are tender, stirring once. Remove from oven. Stir in cooked pasta.
3. Meanwhile, in medium saucepan, combine pasta sauce, remaining oregano, ground red pepper and fresh black pepper. Bring to simmer, simmer uncovered for 10 min. Remove from heat. Stir in whipping cream.
4. Pour sauce over pasta mixture, tossing gently to coat.

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